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Foursquare vs. Gowalla

Posted 20th July 2010 by    email Email article     share Share article

Having covered the likes of Twitter in the past I wanted to delve back into the world of social networking and have a look at a section which is really starting to catch on – Location Based Networking. In particular I would like to take a look at the two main contenders: Foursquare and Gowalla.

So what is Location Based Networking? Basically you have the basis of a social networking set up with the ability to add friends, find new friends and update your status. Sounds pretty similar to everything else out there so what’s new? Well what has seen this particular form of networking become popular, is the ability to “Check In”, as they both put it, wherever they may be. So say for example you are chilling out at the top of the Empire State Building or Eiffel Tower, you’re going to want to tell people about it and off course rub their faces in it.

So where do the differences lie? This is problem; both Foursquare and Gowalla are very similar offering almost the same experience bar a few minor differences. These differences come in the form of “Checking In”. Foursquare allows members to become, “Mayors” of certain places if they’ve been there the most, and set up the likes of Pub Crawls or Shopping Trips for other members to encounter. Checking in at all set locations will see you receive a badge for doing so. Gowalla has set lists on the other hand and doesn’t set specific people to be in charge of certain places. They have a league table set up instead of the Top 10 visitors, featured on the page.

What else do we know about the two companies? Foursquare is only 16 months old and is already surpassed in on 1.3million users, it is being pursued by Internet giant Yahoo! Inc., which has supposedly offered as much as $125million for the service. The company seem to have benefitted both financially, and in terms of experience from their previous venture, Dodgeball(another location based site) which was bought over by Google.

Gowalla on the other hand has a much smaller user base with approximately 150,000 users active on the site as of March 2010. They have been in business considerably longer than Foursquare too, have been founded in 2007. They have recently received a fair bit of funding and been promoting heavily, becoming popular in a number of companies which could see a burst in new users over the coming year.

Both have taken on considerable promotional deals with big companies in recent times. Foursquare has been in business with Domino’s Pizza in the UK for a while now, allowing users to check in and receive a free side-dish and rewarding mayors with a free pizza. Gowalla on the other hand have teamed up with NBA team, the New Jersey Nets, having a 20 story building in New York City painted to announce the partnership and offering a free gift to anyone who checked in at the building. Gowalla have also teamed up with t-shirt design giants, Threadless and Lance Armstrong’s brand, Livestrong, which should push their notoriety a bit further.

Gowalla Advert

For me, Foursquare is currently out in the lead, focusing on connecting with friends whereas Gowalla focuses on you as an individual, which could be a key reason for their low user figures. Gowalla, I would say have the better design both on web and on Mobile but they need to start taking at advantage and progressing as a business. They have taken a couple of major steps with the partnerships they have put together but having been around longer than Foursquare, who have come to the forefront with ease, they risk finding themselves left behind. I can’t foresee them both existing successfully when you consider how similar they are, so it will be interesting in months or years to come to see who becomes the big company out of two aspiring, bright young social networks.

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  • Jase Bell

    Nice post. Now let me wade in…. :)

    In the next two years I see Foursquare suffering from the same problem as Facebook, it's all about the total number of users to make it look good in the press. Check-ins offers will only really work if there's a large concentration of users (so somewhere like London, Manchester, Birmingham are perfect). Smaller locations won't see the real net benefit of checking in.

    Businesses signing up may see a slight increase in revenue from check ins but I'm still yet to be convinced that significant growth is possible. At the end of the day the only brand that's amplified is Foursquare's not the retailer. Plus the game mechanics of becoming Mayor asap I don't think is worth the reward that some retailers are offering.

    Okay, let's be upbeat on this a little. Check in technology is good if it can pull retailer and customer together. The one person that knows the customer better than Foursquare is the retailer themselves.

    Regards
    Jase Bell
    http://www.datasentiment.com

  • http://www.medialightbox.com/blog/ Media Lightbox

    You raise a lot of good points here. Ultimately Foursquare will try to become as big as they possibly can. Already they seem more impressive than Gowalla as they've been around for a short while and yet have many more users. People see this and instantly join Foursquare as the likelihood that one or more of their friends also have an account is much greater. As the site gets bigger you may see a greater benefit to checking in in smaller locations but with the level of commuting to big cities and number of people living in them to begin with, the main focus should be the big cities for the two companies.

    For me, check in technology is still at a very early stage, and a lot of different features need to become available to truly interest people in the long term.

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